Looking at my notes on the plane back from Durban – which ran into several pages – I was amazed at how much we were able to pack in to a 3-day flying visit to the host city for the 10th General Assembly (10GA).
Joanna Conlon (IAPB’s Director of Development and Communication) and I, along with Janine and Rachel from the 10GA professional conference organiser, MYT, had arrived just 80 hours earlier in a rainy and grey Durban. This was our second recce in preparation for the General Assembly in 2016 (27-30 October at the Durban International Convention Centre (ICC)).
Over the next couple of days however, the cold and rain gave way to so much warmth. Not only had the weather turned sunny – 25C – (which would make winter here much preferable to summers back home in London), but everyone we met welcomed us with hospitality and enthusiasm. I am convinced that the Durbanites’ warmth perfectly matches the city’s temperate weather (“while we go around in t-shirts, it snows in Cape Town”, locals were proud to remark).
Over a whirlwind of meetings and site-visits, we got many glimpses of the good-natured hospitality and professionalism 10GA delegates can expect to experience at the Assembly next year. From the patient and dedicated staff who showed us the world-class facilities of the Durban ICC (including a complete Braille Trail running the length of the structure), to the passionate team at the Durban Convention Bureau and Durban Tourism (ever so fond of the mix of cultures and the many attractions their city and province have to offer); from the inexhaustible Sandy, who heads the travel company which will provide a treasure trove of local knowledge for all those delegates wishing to explore KwaZulu Natal and South Africa further, to each and every staff from the many hotels Janine and Rachel inspected (I believe they were able to pack in 14 visits over 3 hours, certainly a record in the industry) – no matter where we went, we were always met with a big smile and a friendly face.
This was particularly true for the10GA local host, the Brien Holden Vision Institute, whose local team, led by the incredible Petronella Nichols, showed remarkable resilience and goodwill in advising and supporting us throughout the visit, even during such difficult times for their organisation.
Thanks to all of them, what we soon came to realise was that Durban, alongside housing Africa’s leading conference centre, will also make for an hospitable and committed host city, one we hope not only would accommodate delegates, but actively contribute to and benefit from the success of 10GA.